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g1AD's Top Ten NES Game Soundtracks (of 8-bit win!)

3/10/13 11:35am

On July 15th, 1983, a little company called Nintendo released it's first ever home console in Japan, named the Family Computer, which we call the Nintendo Entertainment System in other parts of the world. The console would host a number of amazing titles and laid down the foundation for many video game franchises that still exist to this day.

But one defining feature of the NES that many gamers hold in high regards is a little microprocessor called the Ricoh 2A03 & 2A07 in NTSC & PAL regions, respectively. What's that, you may ask? Well, that's the dedicated microprocessor of the NES's sound effects & music.

To this day, the NES is held in high regards to having some of the best video game soundtracks of all time, with it's charming use of bleeps and bloops that form into amazing compositions, with more advanced techniques in manipulating the sound chip's programming being developed over time. The limitations of the NES sound chip presented challenges to the audio programmers, but the payoff would be highly worth it in the end.

In response to this amazing set of hardware, a few members of the g1 After Dark crew got together to form our Top Ten list, showcasing what we think is the best of what the NES has to offer. We bring you;

 

g1AD's Top Ten NES Game Soundtracks (of 8-bit win!)

 

Let's meet the contributors of our list right now!

BobboHead13

Co-host of Randumb, Mod of g1 After Dark, & Retro Music Enthusiast. Also, the writer of this blog :3

Fox

Regularly plays 8-bit music to appease the ghosts of the machines placed underground by The Great Old Ones.

SpoonMan Abrams X

The Legendary SpoonMan, Overlord of Shenanigans, and Deacon of Le' Pie

Thunderplant

Forum Sig Extraordinaire...Is There Anything Else He Does?

Ben Be Jamin

Uguu~

 

Now without further ado, let's get this list going!

...but first, an honorable mention...

 

BobboHead13

Fantastic soundtrack, inspired a generation...of idiots :P

SpoonMan Abrams X

LOL Cheetah Men 2

Ben Be Jamin

Dum dum dum dum dum dum dum dum dum dumumummaamamama dum dum dum dum dum dum dum dum dum dumumummaamamama.

 

Glorious~ Now, on to the real Top Ten!

 

BobboHead13

Metal Storm's soundtrack focuses on setting a gritty, robotic-like tone. Stage 2's music very much fits this description, and theming like this changes from stage to stage. Definitely enjoyable to listen to and hear the range of different instruments played throughout the different tracks.

Fox

A gravity defining techno filled romp. Metal Storm’s soundtrack is mostly blips and bloops but it gives the game an abrasive robotic pulse. Oh and I don’t think there has been such a melancholy theme like the continue music since the walking away music from the Incredible Hulk TV series. You hear that play and see an empty scroll of the level and you are beckoned to give it another shot.

SpoonMan Abrams X

This game just keeps showing up on our lists! (read: Why haven't you played it yet? Don't lie. I can see it in your eyes~) Just like it's gameplay, Metal Storm's soundtrack does some unique things with it's score to provide it's own unique 8-bit twist. A nice balance of Sci-fi sound coupled with a nice epic feel. Now seriously, go out and buy/play this game!

Thunderplant

What is one of these lists without mentioning Metal Storm? We have already mentioned how much we love the game, and one of the reasons is the soundtrack. It has that Megaman-esque feel to it where every stage has some catchy beat. I'm sure everyone is familiar to the Stage 1 theme after we forced you to watch the HVGN video, but aside from that there lies a echelon of great 8-bit sounds. But due to its lack of memorable tracks, it had to be number 10.

 

 

BobboHead13

The one that started it all. Definitely a classic in its own right. It features many of the staple songs that would be heard as the series went on, including The Prelude, the Opening Theme, and the Victory Fanfare. Although primitive as an RPG, the game has a great audio presentation, and each of the tracks are amazing and epic even on the limited sound chip of the NES.

SpoonMan Abrams X

So classic. Not many series have the heritage to rival Final Fantasy's, let alone be able to still use the same basic themes & styles to this day and it still be considered awesome without having completely cycled it out. Certainly a testament to Nobuo Uematsu's incredible skills as a composer. You definitely can't go wrong with this soundtrack.

Thunderplant

If I told you that the Final Fantasy soundtrack was only the second longest soundtrack in our list, you'd say I was crazy. (Wait till the next number, and you'll understand) The original Final Fantasy soundtrack features many memorable tracks that were remixed and updated in future installments, but do the beeps and bloops live to our expectations? Well our tiebreaker Fanboy agreed so. From that recognizable Prelude to the Ending, we know almost every track off by heart. (Though this is mainly because Final Fantasy has been re-released so many freaking times it isn't funny) Since only Ben and myself had it on our lists, it was placed as nine.

Ben Be Jamin

Ah yes, the game that wrote the book on how to make an effective RPG soundtrack. While this far from the best Final Fantasy soundtrack, It's still manages to be effective even though Uematsu didn't have as much to work with. The compositions may be short and somewhat simple(by Final Fantasy's standards), but nearly everyone of them is solid and somewhat catchy.

 

 

BobboHead13

Right from the beginning of the game, right at the title screen, you're drawn into the world of Mother with the Title Screen music...and you never want to press start! Most of the music in this game is very charming, from beautiful ballads to rock n' roll cover songs. Some of this game's music would appear again in Mother 2, or Earthbound here in the US. Great soundtrack for a great game!

SpoonMan Abrams X

Never played a lot of Mother myself, but it's definitely one of the most unique & beloved soundtracks on the NES. Regardless of how "inspired" the the themes may have been by the Beatles or whoever else, it still remains one of the cooler soundtracks in my book.

Thunderplant

Blame this on Ben and myself again for having this on the list, and blame Fanboy for preferring this to Final Fantasy. The Mother soundtrack is one hour of recognizable Earthbound tracks, but in 8-bit form. When you take that melody, simple as can be, give it some words and sweet harmony the end result is this soundtrack. I love me some Mother and this just had to be on the list, and thankfully we had a few RPG enthusiasts to generate this top ten or else we would have gotten Pictionary or god forbid Cheetahmen. The soundtrack to this game is just so calming and appropriate to each area, from Pollyanna, 8 Melodies, Snowmen to New Age Retro Hippy, it just sounds right.

Ben Be Jamin

Much like it's more well know successor, Mother's soundtrack pushes it's console's sound capabilities to the limit. Not only is it incredibly varied, it is also pretty damn big for a NES game. This soundtrack really is the complete package. The range of moods these tracks express is quite impressive. You've got sad songs, happy songs, mellow songs, funky songs, and a few others I'm forgetting. This soundtrack was pretty far ahead of it's time in this regard.

 

 

BobboHead13

I'll have to credit Fox for introducing this game to me and its amazing soundtrack. It has that distinct Konami-feel to it, and shares similarities to it's counterpart Gradius. The music is very upbeat and adventurous, and it accurately reflects the gameplay perfectly. Two thumbs way up for Life Force!

Fox

In space no one can hear you *pew pew*. Lifeforce combines action packed space combat action with dark spacey environments and the soundtrack reflects this. Get ready for an enthralling journey into an alien body.

SpoonMan Abrams X

I love me some shmup's. I especially love me some shmup's with an awesome soundtrack with which to obliterate hordes of enemies to. Life Force delivers on all fronts. Easily my favorite 8-bit shmup, Life Force's soundtrack makes a great accompaniment to the sidescrolling deep space action found in the game. Even with it's challenging difficulty, it's just more reason to come back and conquer this Konami classic.

Thunderplant

I did not play Life Force once in my life or SHMUPs in general until it had a loli anime girls in the form of Touhou. Therefore I never appreciated such classics like this, UN Squadron and Gradius. Listening to this soundtrack gave me nerd tears to how epic it sounds. It's an upbeat charm that just makes your feet tap. Fox and Ben had this on their list, and therefore it was up to our Kiwi friend to decide between them. Do I agree with this decision? Well I'm more of an RPG fanatic so take a guess.

Ben Be Jamin

It's only fitting that arguably the best shooter on the NES has the best soundtrack of them all. While some songs fall flat at certain points, the overall energy of this soundtrack is why it's here. Not to mention most of these songs are damn catchy.

 

 

BobboHead13

What's almost as good as the actual music from the hit Disney cartoon series of the same name? This! Duck Tales has a variety of different songs that suit the different areas you visit throughout the game, from the peppy music of the Amazon to the wondrous Moon. And it's a great game to boot as well!

Fox

Is there a more iconic song than the theme from Duck Tales? The music gives off a great sense of wonder, adventure, and cartoony fun. Of course the stand out is the sci-fi tinged Moon theme but there are plenty of other solid tracks such as the wicked boss theme. Also check out the rather overlooked Duck Tales 2 for even more good tunes.

SpoonMan Abrams X

This one is almost a given. You simply cannot even breathe about incredible 8-bit soundtracks without having to give Duck Tales respect. Right off the bat you are greeted by one of the coolest renditions of the classic theme, in all it's 8-bit glory, and it doesn't stop there. Each level is accompanied by possibly even more awesome original tunes, like the Amazon and Especially dat Moon theme. So, do good. Also, Woohoo~ (/deadjokes)

Thunderplant

Since we're judging the entire soundtrack we have to listen to everything besides the Moon. Capcom knows how to make video game music, and it could NOT have been ignored. It makes you wonder why the Moon is so popular when the Amazon, Himalayas and Mines are just as fun tunes to listen to. I'm no music expert but I can appreciate some good tracks. Fox, TheEntertainmentGuy and myself voted for this, and this song was tied with the next entrant.

Ben Be Jamin

This is game soundtrack known almost entirely for the it's stellar Moon theme, but there's so much more to this game's OST than that one track. Yes, the moon theme may be the strongest song in the game but the rest of the level themes are solid even though they're relatively short.

 

 

BobboHead13

Oh Follin Brothers, my supreme 8-bit overlords and lovers...AHEM, uhh, I mean...Silver Surfer is a perfect example of a balls-hard game that doesn't appeal to most, but BY GOD IS THE SOUNDTRACK AMAZING! It's fast-paced, exhilarating, and fitting of the game's spacey theme. Tim & Geoff Follin are the incredible composers of this game, and they notoriously known for many other awesome NES soundtracks. Unfortunately, these people only picked one of their games...which is a damn shame...

Fox

By Galactus, is this soundtrack good. The game might not be a classic but this futuristic soundtrack is. I know many people relate Norrin Radd to Joe Satriani, but I always think of Tim & Geoff Follin. These compositions are complex but catchy. Silver Surfer is anything but dull.

SpoonMan Abrams X

Wait, what? What is Silver Surfer doing here? While this game is absurdly difficult, that doesn't detract from the fact that it's soundtrack is something immensely awesome. First, that 8-bit base. Second, those 8-bit riffs. They fit so wonderfully together, it's almost enough to forget that this game is brutally hard and will make you want your mommy. Then naturally you die because you collided with a giant rubber duck that you weren't paying attention to. Aggravating? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

Thunderplant

I don't fucking get it. The game, in the most kindest words, is Nintendo Hard difficult and is generally panned. So why does the soundtrack have such an appeal to it. Well Fox sure likes it and he's the expert at this stuff, so a listen was had. Holy crap it's good. Duck Tales good is debatable but it's good alright. It's fast similar to Life Force, but is more rhythmic with what seems to be more chord progressions.

Ben Be Jamin

Now here's a fine example of a soundtrack that can(and has) stood on it's own. While this game doesn't have a very large OST, it more than makes up for it in individual track variety. While many NES games loop their entire composition 4 times or more, Silver Surfer's tracks loop sparingly and the loop is long enough that it doesn't hurt the composition much.

 

 

BobboHead13

Just when you thought Mega Man 1 & 2 had kickin' music, you hadn't heard nothing until Mega Man 3 came out. The epic Title Screen track, Snake Man's stage, the Boss Battle theme: these are just a few of my favorite tracks from this great game.

Fox

Epic. I know that word gets played out but there is just no other way to do Mega Man 3’s soundtrack justice. From the rocking pulse of Spark Man to the sweet jazz of Shadow Man there is a lot to here to pleasure your ears to.

SpoonMan Abrams X

I don't care what anyone says; Mega Man 3 is the BEST 8-bit Mega Man sound track, if not the best one of the SERIES. Yes, I said it. The amount of epicness contained in this is almost second to none. Each boss stage, each Wily's Castle theme, heck even the little bits for getting new powers and defeating enemies. So awesome. Can it get much better? Oh wait...Why yes, yes it can.

Thunderplant

You knew we had to have a Megaman track in the game. Which one would it be? Well obviously it had to be between the two well known ones of course. While I chose 4 (then 2 to be more mainstream until I gave in) since I really liked all the tracks in the game not to mention wanted to be alternative from the crowd. All the Mega Man games had amazing soundtracks. Everyone remembers Mega Man 2 because it generally is the more well known of the duo, but it's 3 that has classics from Snake Man's to Metal Man's, Needle Man's to Shadow Man's and well...you get the picture. The stages and robot masters were perfectly matched with their themes, and of course if it's made by Capcom nothing can go wrong in the music department. Even Gemini Man, which I consider had the weakest theme of the game, wasn't too bad of a song.

Ben Be Jamin

Probably the most iconic and memorable NES soundtrack. The songs in this game have probably been remixed more times than any other game in history and for good reason. There's isn't much to be said that others haven't been repeated for the past 22 years about this game's musical score. I will say this though, you know you've got a legendary soundtrack when it's overplayed to death and it still never fails to send chills of nostalgia down your spine.

 

 

BobboHead13

Ahh yes, the cute little pink puff Kirby on his first adventure on the NES. Vegetable Valley and Butter Building remain to be the most memorable tracks from this game for me, and they're composed so well. Dynamic, fast-paced, and just flat out fun to listen to, Kirby's Adventure remains to have some of the most memorable songs in the NES library.

SpoonMan Abrams X

I honestly don't think NES soundtracks get more unique then this one. Catchy 8-bit beats, this definitely set up a great feel for what was to come in future Kirby titles. It certainly fits the cutesy & campy atmosphere of the funny little pink puffball. While a bit repetitive sometimes, still definitely some of the coolest and most memorable themes from the NES library.

Thunderplant

We all had Kirby on our list (sans Fox) and gosh darn it, the soundtrack is so upbeat. HAL Laboratory made a cute, pink blob of a character and it's the soundtrack that we always rave about. Sure Nightmare in Dreamland does sound better with 16-bit audio, but we cannot ignore the classic, akin to Final Fantasy. Why is it then Kirby is ranked at 3 while Final Fantasy is at 9? Well being on this list depended on how many people picked it, and as already explained, we love our Kirby. In whatever game he's in, you are bound to be matched with cute, upbeat music to follow. It just makes one go uguu~ in happiness.

Ben Be Jamin

I'm not sure about my comrades, but this OST gets a spot on this list for how enormous and consistent it is. Most NES games have have maybe 10 tracks total, Kirby Adventure has over 30(actual tracks and not 5 second jingles)! It's not like there are a few good tracks and a whole lot of crappy ones either. Damn near all of the songs in this game are solid, catchy, and/or memorable. Sure, there isn't a whole lost of variety here since just about every song in this game makes you feel like you're walking through a lush green forest having the time of your life. But that's pretty much this entire game anyways so who cares?

 

 

BobboHead13

This, again, is a game I hadn't heard of until Fox told me about it a few months back. Originally intended to be a game based off of the film Terminator, which explains it's dark-themed tracks with heavy bass notes and ominous tones. The game is very driving from start to finish, and the soundtrack fits that feeling very well. Definitely attempt to pick this game it up, it's fun to play and to listen to as well!

Fox

Few games manage to get under your skin like Journey to Silius does. It starts out with your typical expedition type of track, but even this is a little more sinister than what you find in most games. As you travel deeper underground, you are greeted by metallic god drums as inhuman machines spring to life. You trek onward and are accompanied by eerie tunes of danger and dread. As you battle under blood red skies, the sense of hopeless abandon grows and consumes you.

SpoonMan Abrams X

Yup, there certainly is a lot of Space & Sci-fi going on in this list, but you can't help it when you have a soundtrack as downright boss as Journey to Silius. In my opinion, this soundtrack very nearly puts even the great Mega Man soundtracks to shame! It's not everyday a game soundtrack can do that... but then again Journey to Silius isn't necessarily your everyday NES game. Don't take my word for it~

Thunderplant

We are radicals that's for sure. Everyone had Journey to Silius in their list. An overlooked gem in the NES library by Sunsoft, it really makes the game feel like an epic despite it's rather simplistic graphic scheme. The golden egg in this already amazing soundtrack has to be the Boss Battle theme, which I consider Top 5 Boss Themes of the NES library. (another outstanding list maybe? ) Journey to Silius just has an amazing soundtrack in both quality and composition, which just elevates the perfect gameplay that follows.

Ben Be Jamin

There are few games(let alone NES games) that you can say lack a single mediocre song. Journey to Silius, is one of those games. What sticks out the most in this soundtrack is how pronounced the bass is in all these tracks. Lesser NES soundtracks may have a faint, sporadic, bass line that kicks in occasionally at a songs climax and barely changes it's tone. Journey to Silius's bass lines on the other hand, are constant, loud and in your face giving these songs near perfect balance. It saddens me that I don't see songs from this soundtrack get more recognition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BobboHead13

Oh...man...where to begin about this game's soundtrack. Well, first off, I'm going to be giving praise to the Famicom version, titled Akumajou Densetsu. It featured many advance audio techniques thanks to the onboard Konami VRC6 sound chip, which delivered richer bass tones, more accurate instrument sound effects, and also the capability to layer more sound effects at one time when compared to it's NES counterpart. This game also introduced many Castlevania songs we would hear through today's iterations, including Beginning, Clockwork, and Dejavu (Vampire Killer). This game pushed the limits to their max on NES/Famicom, and it shows! Castlevania III sent the series off with a bang on the NES, and is evident by its amazing presentation

Fox

Talk about raising the stakes, the music of Castlevania III just slays it. For being a pretty long game, there are lots of tracks, and lots of variety. Some are remakes of previous songs in the series, while others are originals that are exclusive to this title. They always seem to fit the mood from an exciting call to high adventure, to the moody dark and dreary inside of a cavern. While the US tracks are classic, in Japan, Konami put an extra chip on the cart to allow even more expansive audio. Both are great, but if you haven’t heard the Famicom version then give it a listen, you are in for a bloody good time.

SpoonMan Abrams X

You had to know this was coming. Castlevania is easily one of the most iconic sounds on the NES, and it just keeps going. You know you have something special when you can keep such a soundtrack and still use it to this day and make it fresh and new. What makes Castlevania 3 so special is that the Japan-only Famicom version made use of the Konami VRC6 chip, one of only a very few games that did (The MM3 example above was actually a remixed). While the version we got (and most of us are familiar with) is still incredible in it's own right, the Famicom version utilizing the chip... that's just something on a whole other level. NES soundtracks really don't get more awesome and incredible then that.

Thunderplant

No Mario? No Zelda? No Metroid? What's wrong with us you say? Why do we have such a love for Castlevania 3? Well take a listen to this and compare it with other NES gems. Konami specifically made a chip inside the cartridge just to increase the quality of the sound being projected. (Note: Famicom only, since the VRC6 chips were meant on the Famicom cartridges) You can tell the difference the moment you hear in Beginning, which has been a theme used in countless future releases, upon other NES game soundtracks. Mad Forest and Prelude, also popular pieces originate from this game, are just stunning. I talk a lot about how atmospheric some soundtracks are, and boy does Konami know what they're doing with this IP. It is essentially one big epic, where Trevor is on his quest to vanquish the evil Dracula for the sake of his birthright. Our basis on the top ten was based on who had what on our individual lists. Well we ALL had Castlevania 3, so you might call it a bias, but damn it's our list and our rules. If you don't like it make your own. (Which we strongly encourage)

Ben Be Jamin

Castlevania and Castlevania 2's soundtracks are classics that need no introduction. Castlevania 3's soundtrack beats them both in almost every single way. On top of being the overall best NES OST, this soundtrack may be the most atmospheric soundtrack on the NES. As cliché as this sounds, this soundtrack really does a excellent job at making one feel like he or she is in ancient Romania. Even the slightly inferior VRC6-less American and European versions of the game are impressive.

 

 

That does it for this g1 After Dark Top Ten! Many thanks to those involved with the Top 10, which are the above submitters along with FanBoy & theentertainmentguy who contributed to this madness.

This blog post was actually conceived back in December of last year, so thanks to those who were patient on awaiting for its arrival! If you liked this list, check out our previous 2 g1AD inspired Top 10s; NES Games you don't know and PS1 games of awesomeness! Also be sure to look forward to many more collaborative blogs, videos, and other malarkey in the near future! Don't forget to let us know what you think about the blog in the comments below and/or in the forums.

Until next time g1s, SHENANIGANS!

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